You know that popular phrase "out like a light", well it does little justice to the various activities that happen when you sleep. The myth that when you sleep your brain logs out like a PC is erroneous. There are a series of events that happen simultaneously as we sleep and some of these discoveries are even shocking.
Sleep enables you to stay refreshed, energized, and prepared for a new day. It plays an important role in aiding retentive memory, mood regulation, appetite, and even your sex drive. If you fail to sleep well, a whole lot of things can go wrong with your productivity, concentration, health, and general well-being. Good beds like sleep number, are an important factor to the quality of your sleep.
To improve your awareness of the importance of sleep, you will learn some shocking processes that occur while you sleep.
First, you need to understand the stages of sleep.
Stages Of Sleep
There are four stages of sleep. One of these stages falls under the rapid eye movement (REM) category while the other three form the non-REM sleep. These stages are greatly influenced by the brain activity that occurs during the sleeping process.
This stage of sleep is classified under the non-REM category. It is the "dozing off" stage that lasts for one to five minutes. Although the brain and body activities begin to slow down at this stage, the body has still not relaxed. You can easily wake up at this stage of sleep but if left uninterrupted, you can move to the next stage.
The body is more subdued at this stage, temperature drops, muscles relax and body functions slow down. The brain also slows down although few activities assist in resisting being woken up. This stage lasts for about 10 to 25 minutes during the first sleep cycle and it can even get longer for other cycles.
This stage of sleep falls into the non-REM category and it is difficult to wake someone up at this stage. The entire body relaxes even more at this stage, it creates an identifiable pattern known as delta waves. Of all the stages, this is the most restorative aspect of sleep that enhances your body's health. You can spend up to 20-40 minutes in this stage during the first cycle.
This stage is the REM sleep that takes most of the time. It is important for cognitive functions like learning and creativity. Brain activity at this point increases and the body muscles experience paralysis except for the ones in charge of breathing and the eyes. It takes a full 90 minutes of sleep to reach this level.
What Happens In The Brain During Sleep?
Various activities occur in the brain while you sleep. The brain is actively involved in the sleeping process and it has certain signals it sends to the entire body even while sleeping.
Improves The Activity Of The Glymphatic System
The network of perivascular spaces that enhances the movement of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) into the brain is known as the Glymphatic system. This system is also responsible for the clearance of metabolic waste. Sleep improves the function of this system in the body.
There are harmful metabolites in the brain like amyloid beta that the glymphatic system helps in clearing during sleep. When these wastes are cleared, it maintains brain homeostasis. The buildup of this waste has been associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease and this is what the lymphatic system helps in draining out.
The fluid movement depends on arterial pulsation and causes your heart rate to reduce.
The activity of this system increases up to ten-fold when you get quality sleep. The improvement of the lymphatic system's activity also helps to consolidate memory
Shrinks The Brain
When you are asleep, there is a time when the brain synapses which is the connections between brain neurons shrink by about 20 percent. The body takes advantage of the reduced traffic in the brain when the neurons shrink in size.
The effect of this shrinking is profound especially in the aspect of helping your brain store new information. During sleep, the brain samples all the connections between neurons and renormalizes them. Sleep aids in retaining the information that is stored in the daytime on the synapses.
It ensures that the brain is not overwhelmed by the bulk of information that it accesses through normal daily activities. According to Foster, "the sleep phase is a period during which the body takes advantage of physical inactivity to perform housekeeping activities."
When you sleep your body performs multiple functions, your breathing slows, your muscles are temporarily paralyzed, hormones are regulated and even your cortisol level reduces. All of these body functions are what the brain controls.
However, the major aspect is in ensuring that information is retained, waste is cleared and your ability to learn new things improves. These processes are controlled by the brain and are essential to your body's health. Invest in quality sleep to get your brain functioning effectively.